Looking at the original piece in the 'paper (which is an abridged version of a speech) he wasn't attempting to suggest that Howard had displayed the same degree of courage as Tpr Donaldson VC.
He was attempting to inspire an audience of young party activists into understanding that politicians need moral courage, and quotes Slim for that purpose, not to denigrate the VC.
He uses Tpr Donaldson's investiture and the coincidence of Howard's receiving the American medal as a vehicle to compare the way in which Aussies seem to have universally praised Tpr Donaldson (impossible to do otherwise) for his courage, with their reaction to American gratitude for Howard's decision - a very different form of courage - to do something he knew to be unpopular but which he believed to be right and more important than personal political gain.
He's done it in a clumsy way thanks to saying 'unknown soldiers' but while I can imagine certain UK politicians standing up and suggesting that our elected misrepresentatives have as much courage as a VC winner, that's not what Abbott was trying to do. He was urging prospective politicians from his party to stand up for what they believe in if they think it's the right thing to do - which is not, for a politician, a discreditable call to make.
Fortunately, it would seem that his opponents have lived down to our expectations of politicians - note the ease with which the chap called Griffin comes out with a nice soundbite, conferring great meaning on one line, which is used as a linkage in the original
"However, Mr Abbott's contention that political courage is 'a higher and rarer virtue' than physical courage suggests that he clearly sees Mr Howard's medal as superior than the Victoria Cross"
The keys for the Outrage Ute can probably be signed out, but I suspect the vehicle should be driven at Griffin, who seems to be wilfully misinterpreting what Abbott said to suggest that the latter has openly implied that Howard was more courageous than Tpr Donaldson - which (a) he hasn't and (b) even if that interpretation can be inferred from the wording, it seems incredible to an outsider (i.e. me) that this could possibly have been Abbott's intent.
Your comment is well-reasoned. There has been quite some opposition to our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, increasingly from "middle Australia" as well as the usual suspects. I remember the deep disdain so many held for our involvement in Vietnam, which was seen as kowtowing to the Americans, and the subsequent shameful public treatment of our returning troops.
Fortunately, the public support for our troops is still strong this time.
Howard's reading of the Australian public will was accurate enough for Iraq and Afghanistan to not be the main reason he lost not only the election but also his own seat - domestic economy, taxation and labour relations legislation did for him.
Griffin's comment seems to me a real attempt to start the outrage ute (the keys are behind the sun-visor), a classical 'out-of-context sound bite, possibly more cynical given his portfolio is Veterans' Affairs.
Other persons awarded the President's Peace Medal include Tony Blair, and Maggie.
Have any UK pollies had a go at this as a political line of attack?
I believe that we over here don't really take much notice of the Spam's awarding one of their "medals" to any of our politicos. After all we denigrate the amount of colour on a spams chest why should we worry if they want to give some of it to Cronies.
I think Archimedes has it right about the attitude of Gibbon being the question that wants raising.
I believe that more Australian people have respect for the Troops, as do the majority of the British people, for doing a difficult job without complaint. than worrying whether a politician is getting recognition for doing their job